Christmas trees can improve fish habitat

For most of us (young and old), the excitement of Christmas has worn off. Right now, most adults and teenagers are looking forward to bringing in the new year, which is normal.

I doubt if very many hunters in the area are in the forests or woods trying to bag some kind of game animal. The weather we are having, along with what is in the forecast for the next several days, is not fit for man or beast. This is simply a good time to be staying indoors, watching the college post-season football bowl games, and maybe trying to enjoy some of the Christmas dinner leftovers.

On Jan. 6, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan, in cooperation with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will accept donated Christmas trees that will be used to improve the fish habitat in certain lakes throughout the state.

Any size tree will be accepted, provided that it is a real tree (not artificial). All trees must have all of the decorations removed. Pine branches that were used as trim will not be accepted. There is no limit to the number of trees that can be donated. The trees will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Capitol Market in Charleston.

The donated trees will be used to improve fish habitat in nine lakes across the state, which include: Burnsville Lake in Braxton County, Stonewall Jackson Lake in Lewis County, Stonecoal Lake in Monongalia County, Moncove Lake in Monroe County, Tygart Lake in Taylor County, East Lyun Lake and Beech Fork Lake in Wayne County, and Big Ditch Lake in Webster County.

Those who donate trees can sign up to win one of three one-night stays at Twin Falls State Park or a $25 gift certificate to the Capitol Market. Everyone who brings a tree will receive a gift from WVDEP. For more details and news about this program, go to www.dep.wv.gov.

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This year’s hunting season has not been one of my best. As 2017 comes to a close, I have only bagged six squirrels. I got one with a shotgun and five with my favorite .22 rimfire rifle. If we can get some suitable weather to be outdoors, I would like to try to get a few more squirrels for my freezer before the season goes out on Feb. 28. Hunting squirrels during the winter months can be a real challenge.

While the bushy-tails don’t hibernate during cold weather, they just don’t stir around like they do in the fall. This year, there has been an abundance of hickory nuts and acorns. Chances are, the squirrels will come out of their dens for only a few minutes during the morning hours and quickly return to their nests where they already have plenty of nuts stored for the winter. After eating a few of the stored nuts, they often curl themselves up, wrap that bushy-tail around themselves, and just sleep the time away.

Winter squirrel hunting requires a different strategy. The leaves have fallen, and this can be good and bad for the hunter. The hunter can see the squirrel easier and at a longer distance. At the same time, the squirrel can hear the hunter coming.

Just about all of this year’s food sources are on the ground. Therefore, the squirrel will most likely be on the ground. Quite often, this makes them difficult to see to where hunters can get them in the sights of whatever kind of firearm they might be using.

In years past, I have taken several squirrels during the winter months, but this was when I had the assistance of one damn good squirrel dog. When Ole Shep got a squirrel up a tree, he would let me know with a loud and rapid bark. Quite often, the squirrel on the tree would only watch the dog, and this was when I would put the cross-hairs on my scope-mounted rifle on the critter and let drive. The dog’s reward would be the cooked heart and liver from the squirrel that would be mixed in with his regular dog food.

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